Wellness Industry Racism – Pandora's Health

How can the wellness industry be less racist?

Imagine someone who’s ‘into health and wellness’. What do they look like? Odds are they’re female, wealthy and white. So how can the industry change?

I, like many people, have been shocked and appalled at recent events in the United States. The resurgence in the Black Lives Matter movement has had me wondering about how far reaching racism and discrimination can be addressed in the health and wellness industry.

I’ve previously written about the rise of the industry, and how businesses like GOOP perpetuate white elitism and cultural appropriation. As someone who has an interest in wellness, is white and in a well paying job, I know that I need to do more to address this issue.

Now, this is for anyone who currently believes that the wellness industry “doesn’t see colour” or “isn’t biased”.

Wellness is inherently, innately, inextricably political because it has EVERYTHING to do with race, sexual orientation, gender identity, class, and ability. To pretend that these factors don’t affect our 1) need for well-being and 2) the ability to access well-being resources is delusional. Straight up. 

IF YOUR WELLNESS ISN’T INTERSECTIONAL THEN YOU’RE NOT “WELL.” YOU’RE RACIST.

Stop mindlessly appropriating culture

Diversity – Pandora's Health

Let me start my list of improvements by saying this, very clearly, culture should never be ‘a trend’.

I’ve seen this happen in The Goop Lab, when the wealthy (mostly white) staff took a jolly to Jamaica to test psychedelics. Locals have historically used them in traditional medicine… but Goopers wanted to ‘connect to the spirit of the mushroom’ and made it all about them.

Yoga is another, classic example, of cultural appropriation. Don’t get me wrong, there are white yoga teachers who travel to India to study and understand the practice. There are also people who will mindlessly use yoga and Indian culture, because it looks nice.

Please, don’t just say “namaste” and claim that you’re spiritual. You’re merely parroting a word because it’s” cool”.

Find diverse brands and companies to support

Yoga – Pandora's Health

If you subscribe or regularly buy women’s or health magazines… take a look at the covers, side by side. Do they all feature nearly identical celebrities or models? If they do, it’s a sign that they need to work on their diversity.

I read a heartbreaking article where Nicole Cardoza, a yoga teacher and woman of colour, shot a cover photo for Yoga Journal (a leading yoga magazine in the US).

The magazine then did a “fun poll” where subscribers could choose their own cover… and pitted Nicole against a white woman.

This is not the sort of editorial behaviour that needs to be stopped. And one of the best ways to do that is to stop supporting brands and magazines which double guess and fail at the chance to be diverse.

Take your business elsewhere. In fact, here’s a list of black-owned businesses which you can support.

Educate and empathise

It’s easy to say “we’re all the same” when you’re in a position of privilege. But, the numbers don’t lie.

1 in 2,500 black women will die during pregnancy and childbirth. If this doesn’t sound like that much, let me inform you that the odds of that happening to a white woman is 1 in 12,500. That’s five times higher.

What is the reason behind this disparity? Is it physiological, or is it systemic socioeconomic inequalities like housing and access to quality care?

These important questions need answers, and as consumers and creators of health and wellness content, we need to play a part in making positive and inclusive changes.

Imagine yourself to be pregnant and facing life threatening challenges. How does that feel? You’d want something to be done about it.

Don’t regress

Let’s not treat recent events as a flash in a pan. We need lasting, positive change, and the only way to do that is to keep going. Keep learning. Keep changing things.

Personally, I’ll be making sure to include diverse imagery and content on this blog – and I’ll also call out appropriation when it happens.

I realise that I’m in a lucky position, and not everyone around me is. So, as someone who’s better off than so many others (and while we all face our own issues in our own way, it’s all relative), it’s my duty to try and do what I can.

Thanks for reading. Black lives matter.

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